Breast MRI is not a replacement for mammography or breast ultrasound imaging but is an additional breast cancer test used by radiologists to detect breast abnormalities as well as staging of a known breast cancer. Most breast abnormalities turn out to be non-cancerous.
- Breast MRI is a non-invasive way to view the internal workings of the body without using x-rays. It uses magnetic waves to create cross-sectional, three-dimensional computerized breast images.
- MRI breast images allow physicians to see conditions, including some small breast lesions, that may not be visible with other breast imaging methods.
- MRI of the breast can be particularly helpful for women with breast implants or women with dense breast tissue, in which breast cancer can be hard to detect with traditional mammograms.
The breast MRI machine has a movable bed and a special coil that cushions your breasts during the exam. The bed will move you into an enclosure that houses the magnet that takes the images. Our Breast Care Center uses a wide-bore MRI that helps alleviate any claustrophobia you may feel.
All breast MRIs performed at our Breast Care Center are read and analyzed by board-certified radiologists here at our Denver facility.
Preparing for and Having a Breast MRI Exam
Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging examinations usually take between 30 and 60 minutes.
- Relax. Your breast MRI gets you closer to answers about any breast abnormalities that might have been discovered so far. Most breast abnormalities turn out not to be cancerous.
- Your breast MRI technician is trained to conduct the exam expertly and efficiently.
- If you fear enclosed spaces, ask your doctor about prescribing medication in advance of your exam.
- Metal objects can interfere with the breast MRI's magnetic field. Please remove jewelry, hairpins, glasses, hearing aids and/or anything else metal. Most surgically placed metallic devices are usually acceptable. Nevertheless, be sure to tell your technician about any types and amounts of metal in your body. Aneurysm clips can be particularly risky. If you are not sure about metal in your body, an x-ray may be taken to identify it.
- You should not have a breast MRI if you have a cardiac pacemaker, a defibrillator or cochlear (ear implant). MRI can cause these to malfunction, which can be dangerous.
- Dyes used in tattoos can heat up during a breast MRI, but this is rarely a problem.
- Your physician may want to use intravenous (IV) contrast during your MRI. Although this is different dye than that used during a CAT Scan, there is still a risk of an allergic reaction to MRI dye.
- Identify any allergies you have (hay fever, food, drugs) or if you have experienced allergic reactions such as hives or allergic asthma.
- Tell the technologist about pre-existing kidney diseases.
- Tell the technologist if you are diabetic. Lab tests may need to be drawn before your breast MRI.
- You will be positioned face down on the movable bed with your breasts in the cushioned openings of a special imaging device.
- The bed will be moved into the magnetized enclosure and your breast MRI technician will leave the room.
- You should lie very still while the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine is working. However, you will be able to communicate with the technician at all times during the exam.